Non-notifiable avian influenza detected on NI farm

A less serious strain of avian influenza - of the subtype H6N1 - impacted the NI farm, tests reveal
A less serious strain of avian influenza - of the subtype H6N1 - impacted the NI farm, tests reveal

A veterinary investigation on a broiler breeder farm in Northern Ireland has identified a strain of non-notifiable avian influenza.

Officials investigated the bird disease on the County Fermanagh farm after a private veterinary practitioner raised concerns with the NI government on 2 January.

Following laboratory tests, the disease has now been confirmed as a less serious strain of avian influenza - of the subtype H6N1.

Despite this, Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer has urged farmers and bird keepers to maintain on-farm biosecurity.

Dr Robert Huey said: “A veterinary investigation has concluded and a case of non-notifiable avian influenza has been identified in a commercial farm in County Fermanagh.

“Movement restrictions were placed on the holding as a precautionary measure whilst the veterinary investigation was in progress.

“Although this is a non-notifiable strain of the disease, it is a timely reminder to us all that avian influenza is a constant threat to all poultry flocks and how devastating it would be to our poultry industry should a notifiable case be confirmed in Northern Ireland.”

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) said poultry farmers throughout Northern Ireland will be relieved by the news following the investigation.

The case does, however, serve as a clear reminder of the threat that avian influenza poses to the sector, the union's deputy president David Brown said.

“I urge all poultry and backyard keepers, to continue maintaining high standards of biosecurity and to practice good farm hygiene at all times to protect their flock from infection.

“Bird keepers should subscribe to DAERA’s text alert service to receive immediate notifications should there be a disease outbreak, and if they have any suspicion of infection in their flock I urge them to contact their local divisional veterinary office and report the case to DAERA for investigation immediately,” Mr Brown said.

In December 2019, bird flu was confirmed on a farm in Suffolk, making it the first case of avian influenza affecting poultry or kept birds in the UK since June 2017.